Will VR Time Travel Let Patients Combat Dementia?

Millions of people have been dying each year due to the neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. In a rapidly advancing world, it is hard to comprehend that such a disease exists without any hope for a cure. People with dementia suffer from memory loss and personality change, some more radical than others but eventually resulting in halting of the fundamental functions of the brain. Reminiscence therapy has been around the corner for a while but has recently seen the shift towards technology as steps are being taken to test whether VR can equip patients and care partners to combat dementia.

Virtual reality has risen up to the event by offering new hope to the people losing their precious memories with each passing day. Not only is VR being used as a successful tool for connecting people with mobility and declining memory but is also contributing to helping researchers diagnose the condition at its earlier stages.

Easing Symptoms of Dementia

Extreme mood swings, agitation, and stress are some of the recurring symptoms of dementia patients. Companies are now exploring ways to use VR to calm patients down when agitated. The patients may display repetitive behaviors and it can be very difficult to pacify them, one wrong move and it can cause them to collapse in anxiety. VR, in this regard, has proved to be a successful distraction technique, which can interrupt their repetitive behaviors and cause a 70% reduction in their stress.

VR Time Travel

Taking inspiration from the success of virtual reality in healthcare, trials have begun in Britain to use VR to help dementia patients. It’s like a time travel mission to aid in recovering the lost memories. Can the people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s regain their memories a 100%?

Maybe not.

But if they can remember more about their past and who they are, then their overall mental wellbeing will be improved. Following on the footsteps of conventional reminiscence therapy, experts are working on the solution to create a memory portal where the patients can breathe in the familiar environment or fragments of a time they can recall. Viewers can decide on the experience they want to live from exploring the 1950s tearoom or walking on Brighton beach in 70s.

The memory portal even lets the viewers create a playlist of their choice or an itinerary for time travel and stroll through the portal while the care partners can ask a series of suggested questions that will help stimulate their cognitive functions.

Researchers are expressing high hopes for VR in terms of offering respite to both dementia patients and their care partners from the emotional effects of the illness. Although smart homes are being developed as a solution for dementia patients, virtual reality can offer a better solution. An inclusive environment supporting an orientating, coherent, calm and a gently stimulating environment is ideal for people with dementia and VR holds a better chance of achieving it than conventional methods.